AskDefine | Define cinquain

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /sin.ken/
  • /sɪn.ken/


  1. A five line poetic form which consists of 2, 4, 6, 8 then 2 syllables.
    poetic form
    which, disyllabically,
    grows longer and longer and then
    ends short.
  2. A five line poetic form which consists of 1 noun, 2 adjectives, 3 actions, 4 feeling words, then 1 noun that is the same as top noun

See also

Extensive Definition

In poetry, cinquain, quintain, or quintet refers in general to any stanza or short poem of five lines. There are numerous particular subtypes of such a stanza, including:
Sicilian quintain, which is written in iambic pentameter, with alternating rhyme: a-b-a-b-a. English quintain, which rhymes a-b-a-b-b, and does not require any particular meter. Quintella, a Spanish form that consists of octosyllabic lines, which may rhyme according to a variety of patterns so long as no more than two consecutive lines are rhymed. Limerick is also a type of quintain, wherein the first, second, and fifth lines end on the a rhyme and contain three stressed syllables, while the third and fourth end on the b rhyme and contain two stressed syllables. Presently, the particular term "cinquain" tends to refer to a form invented by the American poet Adelaide Crapsey, and first published in 1915 in The Complete Poems, roughly a year after her death. Her cinquain form was inspired by Japanese haiku and tanka, and its inventor believed her accentual-syllabic form "to be the shortest and simplest possible in English verse." Other writers have been less complimentary: "We did some research and discovered the cinquain was invented around the turn of the century by one Adelaide Crapsey, a humongously sensitive Vassar grad who died young of consumption and general weepiness. We have here in front of us several books of cinquains by Miss Crapsey, a hugely tragic figure, and we must say these are the most effete and vomitacious versifications, poems so ickily precious and pretentious they make haiku look like Kipling." (The Washington Post May 26, 1996)
Crapsey's cinquains utilized an increasing syllable count in the first four lines, namely two in the first, four in the second, six in the third, and eight in the fourth, before returning to two syllables on the last line. In addition, though little emphasized by critics, each line in a Crapsey cinquain has a fixed number of stressed syllables, as well, following the pattern one, two, three, four, one. The most common metrical foot in her twenty-eight published examples is the iamb, though this is not exclusive. Also, in contrast to the Eastern forms upon which she based them, Crapsey always titled her cinquains, effectively utilizing the title as a sixth line.
The Crapsey cinquain has subsequently seen a number of variations by modern amateur poets, including: Reverse cinquain, a form with a syllabic pattern of two, eight, six, four, two. Mirror cinquain, a ten-line form consisting of a cinquain followed by a reverse cinquain. Butterfly cinquain, a nine-line syllabic form with the pattern two, four, six, eight, two, eight, six, four, two. Cinq-cinquain, or crown cinquain, a sequence of five cinquains functioning to construct one larger poem. Quintiles are multiples of any number of cinquains centered on a common theme. Garland cinquain, a series of six cinquains in which the last is formed of lines from the preceding five, typically line one from stanza one, line two from stanza two, and so on.
The didactic cinquain is also closely related to the Crapsey cinquain. It is an informal cinquain widely taught in elementary schools and has been featured in, and popularized by, children's media resources, including Junie B. Jones and PBS Kids. This form is also embraced by young adults and older poets for its expressive simplicity. The proscriptions of this type of cinquain refer to word count, not syllables and stresses. Ordinarily, the first line is a one-word title, the subject of the poem; the second line is a pair of adjectives describing that title; the third line is a three word phrase that gives more information about the subject; the fourth line consists of four words describing feelings related to that subject; and the fifth line is single word synonym or other reference for the subject from line one.
According to the same Japanese influence as the Crapsey cinquain, a number of more contemporary poets have devised other five line forms striving after the same tone and appeal. Tetractys is five-line poem of 20 syllables with a title, arranged in the following order: 1,2,3,4,10.with each line standing as a phrase on its own. It was created by the late English poet Ray Stebbings. Cinqku is a form invented by American poet Denis Garrison. It consists of no title, 17 syllables, and a surprise or turn in line 4 or 5. Lanterne is a five line quintain verse shaped like a Japanese lantern with a syllabic pattern of one, two, three, four, one. Each line is usually able to stand on its own as a phrase, and the poem may or may not have a title.
cinquain in Japanese: 五行連
cinquain in Chinese: 五行诗
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